The idea that women apologize when they don’t need to, for things that don’t need to be apologized for, is woven so deeply into our culture that there is even a commercial about it: the wildly successful Pantene ad about women saying sorry this past June. But despite all the recent attention given to the issue — as well as the related feelings of guilt and shame that many of us also feel for apologizing in the first place — we don’t seem to be any closer to unraveling (or ending) our sometimes-compulsive urge to apologize.
Do women spend so much time apologizing because we’re raised to believe that more of our behaviors count as apology-worthy offenses ? Are we apologizing in order to navigate our way through a still-sexist workplace, where issuing normal demands and requests can still brand a woman as “difficult” in the eyes of her coworkers? Are we apologizing to appear more likable? Are we apologizing as a way to commiserate with strangers? Are we genuinely stepping on a lot of strangers’ feet on the bus?